The Business Times

Time to make Singaporeans 'hungry' again?

Published Wed, Oct 2, 2013 · 10:00 PM
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SINGAPOREANS aren't too keen to work abroad - and this limits the country, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said recently. The reluctance of Singaporeans to take up overseas postings would constrain not only their own career progress in multinational corporations but also Singapore's potential in the world, he added.

The PM's exhortation might seem remarkable. Globally savvy, most Singaporeans can, of course, see that an overseas work or study stint would be invaluable for the exposure to a different culture, the tremendous learning and mind-broadening experience that it provides. But family issues - young children's education, spouse's career, care of elderly parents - typically stand in the way. To be sure, a good number of Singaporeans have ventured out, even beyond the usual destinations to far- flung corners of the globe, but the intrepid and spunky are still the exceptions by far. Employers find it a challenge to get suitably skilled and qualified Singaporeans to take up an overseas assignment for even a year or two. Yet for those who aspire to top posts in an MNC, an overseas stint, "even to difficult places", would be almost de rigueur. Said PM Lee: "We should have that spark to go wherever the opportunities are, and some of them will be hardship postings."

Contrast the situation elsewhere: many young French people, for instance, see greater opportunities outside their country, particularly in Asia, and France is worried about an exodus of talent. Indeed, with high youth unemployment across the continent, droves of young people from Greece, Spain, Italy, etc, have had to leave home in search of not so much greener pastures but simply a decent job and salary.

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